Author Biography

Dr. Russell W. Glenn spent sixteen years in the think tank community as a senior defense analyst after retiring from the US Army, later joining the faculty of Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at The Australian National University. His education includes a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy and master’s degrees from the University of Southern California, Stanford University, and the U.S. Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies. He earned his PhD in American history from the University of Kansas. He is the author of over fifty books or book-length reports on urban operations and other security-related topics. His most recent book, Come Hell or High Fever: Readying the World’s Megacities for Disaster, is available for free download at http://doi.org/10.22459/CHHF.2023 or purchasable on Amazon.



Subject Area Keywords

Civil affairs, Complex operations, Conflict studies, History, Homeland security, Military affairs, National security, War studies


Urban warfare tends to be intimate. If soldiers do not see the faces of those they kill—and they frequently will—those men and women will hear the screams or muffled groans of the wounded. US forces waging the battle to recapture Manila in 1945 experienced these horrors. Yet it was the noncombatants who suffered far more; 100,000—approximately one of every ten Manileños at the time—died during the fighting. Thousands more suffered wounds, disease, or struggled with hunger and malnutrition. Recent fighting in Syria, Ukraine, Khartoum, and elsewhere tells us too little has changed three-quarters of a century later.

Though urban warfare is a special case of disaster, its lessons are relevant when floods, earthquakes, typhoons, or other forms of crisis strike a city. This article goes beyond confrontations between enemies and the resultant civilian suffering to identify the challenges inherent in preserving noncombatant life during and in the aftermath of these clashes. What is targeted will impact both immediate and longer-term recovery just as will decisions regarding how a force inflicts destruction. The lessons of 1945 have much to tell today’s and future leaders preparing for, responding to, and guiding recovery from combat and other forms of urban catastrophe.